Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Traffic Island Chronicles

There is an island that I spend a lot of time on. It’s strange. I have waited on this island for many minutes. I should probably not spend as much time there as I do.

I was on the island again the other day, sitting on a bench, staring at the ginkgo tree and smelling the simultaneously comforting and revolting hamburger exhaust from a nearby restaurant. This island attracts people who are somewhere between somewhere-to-be and nowhere-to-go. No one is waiting for them, anywhere.

Two men sat on the bench perpendicular to me. They were sleeping as the sun beat down on them. They had on the same pair of black boots and I wondered if they knew. Or if they knew each other. Then, a woman came and sat next to me and ate one of those huge homemade rice crispy treats that they sell in delis, but that no one ever purchases. She was new to the island. Just as I thought about how my island faithfully attracts transitional characters, misfits, outcasts and odd birds, a pigeon walked by with a deformed or badly injured foot.

On my island you will find two large black metal trash cans, three benches, five medium sized trees, two small trees and two shrubs in planters. Most of the trees are sycamores, the type that have the bark peeling off so it’s variegated, like camouflage. Each tree sits in a bed of wood shavings, which is surrounded by concrete. The ginkgo tree across from the island lights up a charasmatic green against the deep red brick facade. The facade belongs to an old factory building, the kind with crumbled character that will be missed and then forgotten when the city tears it down and puts a high-rise in its place. Most of the surrounding buildings are low now, so I can see clear to the 59th street bridge. And I can see sky.

I sit on this island and wait for Joe to finish work, many times he takes too long and I grow restless with a kind of urban island fever. Many times I leave the island before Joe arrives and I wait somewhere else.


  1. I have seen the pigeon with the deformed foot. He and I have had some wonderful conversations. I would have to disagree with the part about the Hamburger exhaust. I find it utterly delightful, its scent wafts like an Arabian belly dancer all around the island, tempting to you to come and taste her wares.

  2. Lovely. I am always impressed with the mutilated pigeons. No self-pity there.

  3. The city could make good money by letting people buy the right to name these little islands and putting their name on a plaque. Would someone please forward this suggestion to the Mayor's office?

  4. The island already has a name. I didnt mention it because I wanted the story to speak to a universal condition ;)

  5. THIS JUST IN: The pigeon with the deformed or injured foot was spotted again on the island yesterday! That pigeon must be a regular, just like me.